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 Jailed Kurdish PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan: One year of total isolation in Turkey's Imrali island

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Jailed Kurdish PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan: One year of total isolation in Turkey's Imrali island  28.7.2012  

Jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, the only prisoner for a decade on the Imrali Island in the Turkish Sea of Marmara. Ocalan was the sole inmate at a prison on the island of Imrali until November 2009 when the Turkish justice ministry transferred five inmates and moved him to a new cell to allow contact between the prisoners.
July 28, 2012

IMRALI/ISTANBUL, — For one year the Turkish AKP government has been keeping the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan in total isolation on the prison island of Imrali.

The International Initiative - Freedom For Öcalan - Peace in Kurdistan has release a statement on the day marking one year of isolation.

Kurdish leader Öcalan has not been able to meet his lawyers since 27 July 2011. Ever since him and the other five prisoners on the island have been cut off from the outside world. Neither family members nor lawyers are allowed to visit. Telephone calls or written communication are also not possible.

The International Initiative underlines that "Even in Turkish law – which does not tend to be soft on political prisoners – there is no legal basis for this total isolation. Each week flimsy excuses like defect vessel or bad weather are cited to prevent the due visits from happening. However, Prime Minister Erdogan as well as Minister of Justice Ergin have both stated publicly that it is the government who blocks every visit".

According to the International Initiative "This demonstrates the complete arbitrariness of the AKP government whose representatives publicly defend breaches of the law as soon as Kurdish matters are concerned. Another scandalous development was the detention of Öcalan's complete defence team of 36 lawyers who have been in jail for more than half a year now".

The real scandal however, as the statement by the International Initiative points out, is the "silence of the foreign countries. The European Convention on Human Rights is valid in 47 states. For Kurds, it seems, it is not. At least not for Abdullah Öcalan. The Council of Europe delegates the responsibility for the scandal prison on Imrali Island to the powerless anti-torture committee (CPT) and deliberately ignores the matter otherwise. Even the much-appraised European Court for Human Rights was so far not able to determine the fact of isolation".

The European Union appears "far to busy building up Turkey as a model country for the Arab world to care for "shop-accidents" like the conflict between the Turkish state and its Kurdish citizens" remarks the International Initiative adding that "in the Syria crisis Ankara appears far too important for EU and NATO to press it for human rights and rule of law in Turkey. The West acts Janus-faced, but this will backfire as soon as Syrian Kurds, at the eve of the emerging of a new Kurdish autonomous region, shall take their place in a new Syria. They will not forget this hypocritical approach to the Kurdish issue".

Even in a Turkish context Öcalan's total isolation doesn't make sense. "It was him - recalls the Initiative's statement - who was able to urge the Kurdish guerilla to hold up several cease-fires. His constructive proposals for a political solution, laid out in his Road Map, formed the basis of the 3-year negotiations between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. A solution to the conflict was within grasp; Recep Tayyip Erdogan stopped the negotiations abruptedly and stepped up the attacks against Kurdish civil society".

This solved none of the problems but created new ones. The clashed between Kurdish guerilla and Turkish army have rekindled, the situation seems muddy. "But even Erdogan - adds the statement - will have to realise that the Kurdish issue can only be solved through dialogue. Therefore the negotiations have to be resumed to prevent further bloodshed".

Öcalan's actions throughout the last years have proven that the Kurdish leader is able to play a balancing role regarding Turkish and Kurdish interests. This balance is the precondition for a lasting peace which is acceptable for both sides.

Stating that the ball is now in the Turkish government's court to put things on track, the International Initiative's statement ends underlining once more that "Öcalan's release as a vital contribution to the solution of the conflict is therefore inevitable".


Lawyers for Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan have been denied their weekly meeting with their client since 27 July.

Various excuses such as "bad weather, no boat available to Imralı Island" have been used by the authorities in the attempt to justify the clear violation of Öcalan's right.

Democratic Society Congress (DTK) Co-Chairs Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tuğluk and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Group Chairman Selahattin Demirtaş had made written applications to the Ministry of Justice to see the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in Imrali prison.

In his last meeting with the lawyers, on 27 July, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan had made significant statements.

Calling on the Turkish state and Kandil, PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan said; "I have finished to play my role. I will take no more steps from now onward to carry on my role unless I am provided with an area of health, security and free movement".

Stating that he will not be able to perform an active leadership under the current circumstances, Öcalan added that "I had already expressed that I will no more be able to perform my role under these conditions, however the attitude of the state and the AKP is blindingly obvious, they don't take any steps. Both Kandil and the state's delegation take me in hand and use me as a subcontractor. From today on, I give an end to be used as a subcontractor as my current position harms both the state and the Kurds. I will no more able to give instructions from here. Peace talks cannot be held under these conditions. My situation is similar to that of Mandela in South Africa. And just like he did, I will also not attempt to take any steps towards peace unless I am set free and have a possibility to move freely. As known, Mandela played his role after the necessary conditions were provided.

Operations are following one another and neither the state's delegation nor the KCK has done its part. We make no headway in this way. Besides the process does harm to both the state and the Kurds. My leadership under these circumstances will no more be for the benefit of Kurds."


Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

The PKK wants constitutional recognition for the Kurds, regional self-governance and Kurdish-language education in schools.

PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list.

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